This Week’s Reading Schedule
Thursday’s (today’s) Bible Reading is Luke 16-20
Friday, Mar. 23: Luke 21-24
This coming Monday, March 26 (Happy anniversary, Mom and Dad!) we will read Acts 1-5.
The overall year’s plan is here.
I’ve had several discussions with people about the exact meaning of this story about the unjust steward. Fortunately we’re not left wondering about Jesus’ exact point. He spells out the lesson he wants us to learn in v. 10-13. He’s teaching faithfulness, even in worldly goods, but above all, that we would serve God and not money.
The Pharisees, we are told, loved money, and so they were offended by Jesus’ statements. Jesus leaves their judgment to God, who sees the heart. He doesn’t waste his time debating them or justifying his teaching.
Jesus makes it clear here that he is not still preaching the Law. That is said so often in the apostles’ writings that you’d think everyone would get it. However, there’s some statements, especially by Jesus that can leave a person wondering about the role of the Law.
At one time in the history of the church, no one wondered. There was very clear teaching, based on Matthew 5, explaining how Jesus brought the Law to fullness. That’s been long forgotten, but you can read a thorough recap of the early Christian teaching at The Christian and The Law of Moses on my Christian-history.org site.
With or without that teaching, Jesus’ statement is clear. The Law and the Prophets were until John. Since John, the kingdom of God is preached.
Hopefully, as we go through the Bible, this commentary will make the preaching of the kingdom of God in the apostles’ writings clear. I have been making efforts to build a picture as we go through the Gospels.
Jesus pulls back the veil, and he gives us a picture of the afterlife with this story of the rich man and Lazarus.
Jesus was a believer in eternal life, and he was a believer in hell. He did not emphasize hell, but neither he did he dodge it. As we’ve seen through Luke, he mentions it often.
Luke 16:19-31 (Advanced)
While the definition of "Hades" rarely comes up in churches, most conservative denominations teach in their seminaries that the place where the rich man and Lazarus were found was emptied when Jesus rose from the dead.
That place was generally referred to as "Hades" in the New Testament. It was not just the rich man who was in Hades, but Lazarus and Abraham were as well. Hades had a good side and a bad side.
The early churches believed that Hades would not be emptied until the judgment at the end of the age. This does line up with Rev. 20:13-14, which says that at the final judgment death and Hades will give up the dead that are in them, and then death and Hades are cast into the lake of fire.
Thus, we end up with three different descriptions of hell in the apostles writings.
- Gehenna, which we looked at yesterday, was a burning garbage dump outside Jerusalem used by Jesus as an example of what to fear in the afterlife.
- Hades is the place of all the dead, and it includes a part that fits the description of Gehenna, where the rich man was in torment.
- At the end there is a lake of fire that is the final judgment and the second death.
Don’t cause your brother or sister to stumble, it will bring harsh judgment. Forgive your brother and sister, even if they sin against you seven times in one day.
If this sort of mercy is required of us, imagine the greatness of God’s mercy toward us. We must not give up, but keep pressing forward, remembering that God’s mercies are new every morning (Lam. 3:23). Let us come boldly, and repeatedly, to God’s throne to obtain mercy and the grace we need to overcome the sins that hold us back (Heb. 4:16).
But let us also remember that we need each other’s help. We need to confess our faults to one another as well and pray for one another that we may be healed (Jam. 5:16).
This is a favorite passage of mine. The apostles ask if Jesus will increase their faith. First he tells them what their faith can accomplish, which is pretty much anything, if they have it. Then he tells them a seemingly obscure story having nothing to do with faith.
I believe Jesus is still answering their request to have their faith increased. Do you want to have the great faith that it takes to command a tree to move? Then you must go further and higher in your obedience to God, not limiting yourself to what has been merely commanded to you.
Here is an excellent picture of the kingdom of God.
Jesus heals ten lepers. Nine of them don’t give him thanks, but one does … a Samaritan.
At that point, the Pharisees ask him when the kingdom is coming. Jesus could have said to them, "Are you blind? Did you miss it? That was the kingdom of God. These men were delivered. Many were ungrateful, but one, a foreigner, was grateful. This is the kingdom of God, the power of the Holy Spirit reaching into people’s lives, transforming them, and gathering together those who are grateful and receive the Word of God with fruitfulness."
That’s what he could have said. What he does say is that they’re wasting their time looking around. The kingdom of God is already in their midst.
There is another coming of the kingdom of God at the end of this age. It is final. Some will be blocked out forever, and others admitted in. Jesus has been warning us over and over to be prepared for that day.
Jesus gives us some descriptions of that coming. I’ve never found anyone who’s been able to put all those prophecies together in a foolproof manner, though many people claim to have done so.
On the other hand, no one ever put the prophecies of the first coming down in a foolproof manner until Jesus actually arrived. Prophecy is to give us signs and warnings so that we will be ready, not so that we can create charts that describe exactly what’s going to happen.
Once more Jesus says that we should be persistent in prayer, crying out until God hears us. Jesus loved faith, and he expected those who heard his word to believe in God, to believe that God is loving and good, and to believe that they would be taken care of by our loving Father. Throughout the Gospels, we have found him expressing frustration when his disciples have not trusted God to take care of them.
These two important stories need no explanation. They are sharp and clear.
We’ve seen the story of the rich, young ruler already. Jesus tried to teach him from the very beginning not to trust in himself by saying, "Why do you call me good? There is none good but one, that is, God."
Jesus, as the living Word of God, qualified as good, but the young man didn’t know that. Jesus was trying to get the young man to see that his confidence in having kept the commandments was misplaced and that he was not as "good" as he thought he was. He was trying to get him to despair and trust God.
Finally, Jesus gives him a command that is over his head, and he still does not despair that he is not good and seek help from God. Instead, he goes away sad.
Jesus blames the young man’s riches.
When Peter points out that the apostles have left everything, Jesus assures them that what they receive in this time and the gift of eternal life are ample reward.
Jesus is still taking the time to emphasize to the apostles that this trip to Jerusalem is going to result in his death. Despite all the teaching and miracles he is doing, the goal lies in Jerusalem on a cross on a hill, not in a triumphant military victory. They still, however, did not understand.
Here in the story of Zaccheus we see again that Jesus did not need an outline of the atonement or any other aspect of theology to save people. He is salvation.
Thus, the Gospel that Jesus gives to Zaccheus is, "Zaccheus, hurry and come down, for today I must stay at your house" (v. 5, NASB).
The results speak for themselves.
This is usually known as the parable of the talents, and Jesus tells it specifically because the disciples are still expecting an immediate overthrow of the Romans and a full establishment of the kingdom of God (v. 11).
No, Jesus is like a king going off on a trip. Riches of the kingdom are left in the servants’ hands.
The question is what will we do with the riches left to us. All of us have them (Rom. 12:4-8), and it is clear that we are called to invest the riches of his grace boldly until he returns.
The triumphal entry. Jesus enters Jerusalem on a donkey, fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9. The people cry out, which Jesus says is unavoidable. If they do not, the stones will. Jesus allows this and receives the praise, even though many of these same people will be crying out for him to be crucified in less than a week.
As he enters, though, he weeps again, knowing that he is not going to be crowned but to be crucified, and that Jerusalem will be rejected and destroyed.
It is necessary, for the destruction of physical Jerusalem is what made possible the beginning of spiritual Jerusalem. One of the most cited prophecies in early Christian literature is from both Isaiah and Micah:
And many shall go and say, "Come, and let us go to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths." For out of Zion the Law shall go forth and the Word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
He shall judge among the nations and rebuke many people. They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, nor shall they learn war anymore. (Is. 2:3-4; Micah 4:1-3).
To the early churches, this represented the Gospel going forth from the apostles, teaching the nations to walk in peace and not war.
We who hated and destroyed one another, and on account of their different manners would not live with men of a different tribe, now, since the coming of Christ, live familiarly with them, and pray for our enemies, and endeavor to persuade those who hate us unjustly to live conformably to the good precepts of Christ, to the end that they may become partakers with us of the same joyful hope of a reward from God the ruler of all. (Justin Martyr, First Apology 14, c. A.D. 150)
Jesus follows his peaceful entry with an event that is not so peaceful, driving the money changers from the temple. He is then able to teach daily for a few days before the Pharisees are able to rouse a plan against him with the help of Judas.
First, though, the Pharisees try to battle the living Word of God with words. They fail, and the Lord Jesus tells the parable of the vineyard against them, testifying against them that they have stolen God’s inheritance, and they are now trying to put to death the true heir.
Of course, this has been the plan of God from the beginning. The stone that the builders rejected is going to become the chief cornerstone.
The scribes and Pharisees don’t miss that the parable of the vineyard is directed against them, and they become more diligent. Still, they don’t know what to use against him except to attempt to outsmart him.
They fail miserably, and we are blessed with the wisdom of Jesus in his answers.
I would point out that Jesus’ answers ring with wisdom not just because he is Wisdom incarnate, but because his answers are practical. They have nothing to do with philosophy and theories. They are down to earth. Let’s not discuss the inscription on the coin, but what are we talking about doing with that coin.
Of course, Jesus’ answer to the Sadducees involves knowing about the afterlife, not just practical things on earth. Marriage happens on earth because death happens on earth. Life must go on, and procreation is necessary. In the afterlife, we are granted eternal life, so like the angels we will cease to procreate. There is a number of elect, chosen from those born on earth, and they are not increasing in the next age.
Jesus’ question about the Messiah being both the Lord of David and Son of David threw the Pharisees, but it should not throw us. Jesus unites man and God in himself, and he is both Lord and Son of David.